As Mandy's bird grows, the wild crows try to lure her away. Knowing her crow must be free, but wanting to keep her as a pet, Mandy begins to realize that growing up is more complicated than she ever dreamed.
About the Author
As the writer of children’s and young adult books that focus on the environment, Jean Craighead George (1919-2012) was best known for Julie of the Wolves, which won a Newbery Medal, and My Side of the Mountain, which was a Newbery runner-up. She was raised in a family of naturalists, and aimed to teach children to appreciate and respect the natural world.
Read an Excerpt
Mandy Tressel heard the gun blasts and rolled over in her bed, dragging the pillow down on her cars. She wondered who was shooting at the crows in Piney Woods this morning, her father or one of her big brothers, Jack and Carver. Drummer, her younger brother, was too young to be allowed to handle a gun.
The strawberry crop was coming on and Mandy's father wanted every crow dead before they ate or damaged the valuable fruits.
The odor of gunsmoke trickled through her open window and she got out of bed and looked out. The sun was beginning to light up the strawberry field that stretched from the backyard to the far end of Piney Woods. To the south of their small cinder-block house and the greenhouse, the banana patch grew. The big drooping leaves were motionless in the still air.
Even the woman's-tongue tree in the yard, whose seed pods clattered in the slightest breeze, was quiet. The orange and fig trees were still. The buds of the red hibiscus were waiting for the sun before they bloomed. Mandy breathed deeply. The scent of the night-blooming jasmine bush was still on the air although the flowers had closed with the dawn.
Mandy understood why her father wanted the crows killed, but nevertheless she felt sick each time she heard the deafening blasts.
Once, on a family picnic, she had played with a crow in the nearby Everglades National Park of Florida. She was exploring a trail when suddenly the bird alighted beside her and walked with her along the dark mangrove path. She stopped and held out a leaf. The crow jumped nimbly over it, then pecked it. It sat down when she sat down,backed up when she backed up. She realized the bird had come to her for a reason, and leaned down to hear its message. Then Jack called her. The crow listened to his voice.
"Ca! Ca! Ca! Ca!" it cried and stole off between the warped and twisted branches of the mangrove trees. For the entire afternoon she did not see or bear a crow.
The next morning Mandy asked her mother if crows could recognize hunters by their voices. Barbara suspected they did. "They are keen to danger," she said.
As Mandy dressed for school this day, she thought about that mysterious crow and wondered why he had walked with her. Fairy tales of animals who were princes came to mind, but nothing reasonable. She tramped thoughtfully downstairs. Her brothers were already gone; her mother, she could hear, was showering before going to work.
Mandy skipped out the door and ran through the yard to the path beside the strawberry patch that led to Piney Woods. The sun was glittering on the pine needles and she bummed as she swung through a half mile of forest to the golf course in Waterway Village, a cluster of one-story apartments where retired people lived. Barney, the surly dog, barked as she passed Mr. Hathaway's apartment. She stuck out her tongue at him, ran past the swimming pool, and came out on the road where the school bus stopped. The crows and wild things on her mind, she arrived at school in a daydream.
During study ball Mandy wrote a story in her red notebook. She labored bard, erasing and changing the words. Still she was not pleased with what she had written, and coming home through the woods she stopped, reread her work, and changed two more words. A dragonfly spun around her head like a tiny bomber, and a zebra butterfly alighted on her shirt.
"Good omens," she said and hurried on.
As she came to the fork in the, path that led to Trumpet Hammock, black feathers from some gunned-down crow swirled up from the ground. She paused and glanced around. just off the path a sable palm tree grew. It had never been pruned and its old dead leaves hung down like a skirt on a green-headed lollypop. She often came to the palm and crawled between the great drooped leaves. Within this natural tent she read and dreamed in privacy.
Mandy felt as if someone were staring at her. She pushed back a dry palm leaf and peered into the circular room.
gazing up at her. The bird was frightened; her eyes were wide and her feathers were clamped tightly to her body.
"The last nest in Piney Woods," Mandy gasped. "Someone found it, and you're all that's left." She bit her lips together.
The eyas bad been studying Mandy in the brief seconds while she peered into the shelter. She had read Mandy's personality through the soft curve of her spine, her curled fingers, and her gray eyes veiled with long lashes. These were readings to be trusted, and she relaxed as Mandy dipped to her knees.
"Oh, poor little bird," Mandy said.
"Ah A ah, cowkle, cowkle," begged the eyas and fluttered her wings. Opening her mouth, lifting the feathers on her head to make herself round and appealing, she told Mandy very clearly that she was helpless and needed food. Mandy opened her lunch box and took out the crusts of her sandwich.
She held out the food. Once more the eyas fluttered and begged with open mouth. Mandy fed her the remainder of the bread, and when the eyas begged again she wished she bad not eaten all of her lunch. Recalling that crows like grubs and worms as well as fruits and grains, she walked into the forest, kicked open a rotted log, and found several beetle grubs. Creeping back under the great skirt of leaves, she fed the bird until she begged no more. Gently Mandy picked her up. The bird bad already made her judgment of Mandy. She did not struggle, simply felt the warmth and softness and nestled down in her hands.I know you're a girl, so I'll name you Nina Terrance," she said, using the name she would have given herself if she had had a choice.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
-A gun blast awakes Mandy one morning. Someone in her family is shooting crows again. To Mandy¿s father and brothers, crows are pests that have to be kept away from the family¿s valuable strawberry crop. So when Mandy finds the helpless baby crow in the woods, she feeds her and tames her in secret. Mandy names the crow Nina Terrance and learns to communicate with her by imitating the calls and moans of other crows. As Nina grows, the wild crows try to lure her away. Knowing that Nina must be free but wanting to keep her as a pet, Mandy begins to realize that growing up is more complicated than she ever dreamed. This book is ok. The moral lessons it wants to impart fail to hit home and the protagonists evolution seems to be stunted. While the message the author wants to impart is obvious, it comes off that teaching duplicity, selfishness, and giving up when things don¿t go one¿s way are stronger than responsibility, accountability, and common sense. The ending is horrifying, with Mandy simply killing the crow as her first thought of recourse. Not a book I would recommend.